United States District Court, D. New Mexico
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
matter comes before the Court upon pro se Defendant
Monica L. Wellington's Motion to Vacate Stipulated
Judgment, filed February 4, 2019. (Doc. 147). Plaintiff filed
a response on February 18, 2019, and Defendant JP Morgan
Chase, N.A. (Chase) filed a response on February 19, 2019.
(Docs. 151 and 154). Wellington filed a reply on March 4,
2019. (Doc. 158). Having considered the Motion to Vacate
Stipulated Judgment, the "Stipulated Judgment
Foreclosing the Interest of JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A."
(Stipulated Judgment), and the briefing on the Motion to
Vacate Stipulated Judgment, the Court denies the Motion for
Court entered the Stipulated Judgment on August 21, 2018.
(Doc. 100). The Court, in the Stipulated Judgment, found that
it "has jurisdiction over the parties and the subject
matter of this action." Id. at ¶ 1. The
Court further found that Plaintiff has "a first and
prior lien upon" the subject property and that Chase
claims no interest in that property. Id. at
¶¶ 2 and 3. The Court concluded "as a matter
of law that Plaintiff has standing and is entitled to the
relief demanded in the Complaint as against" Chase.
Id. at ¶ 3. Consequently, the Court adjudged
that the interests Chase had in the property are foreclosed
in favor of Plaintiff and that the "Judgment is hereby
entered as a final Judgment herein as to the matters
encompassed hereby," but the "Court retains
jurisdiction of these proceedings for all other issues
arising from the Complaint...." Id. at¶C.
six months after the Court entered the Stipulated Judgment,
Wellington filed this Motion to Vacate Stipulated Judgment.
Wellington seeks to vacate the Stipulated Judgment or, in the
alternative, to amend the Stipulated Judgment
to remove the statements about the existence of jurisdiction,
plaintiffs standing, the existence of a lien clam, and any
entitlements to relief; or to make it plain and clear that
the 'stipulated judgment' is inapplicable
to, and has no effect on Wellington whatsoever.
(Doc. 147) at 5. Plaintiff and Chase oppose the Motion to
Vacate Stipulated Judgment in its entirety. Plaintiff also
seeks an award of attorney's fees and costs from
makes several arguments in support of her Motion to Vacate
Stipulated Judgment. Wellington argues that the Stipulated
Judgment is not a "judgment" under Fed.R.Civ.P. 54
and does not constitute a "separate document" as
required by Fed.R.Civ.P. 58. She further argues that
Plaintiff and Chase cannot stipulate to the Court's
subject matter jurisdiction. Finally, Wellington argues that
Plaintiff and Chase cannot stipulate to dispositive legal
questions like Plaintiffs standing, the existence of a lien
claim, and Plaintiffs entitlement to relief.
54(b) states, in pertinent part, that "any order or
other decision, however designated, that adjudicates fewer
than all the claims or the rights and liabilities of fewer
than all the parties does not end the action as to any of the
claims or parties and may be revised at any time before the
entry of a judgment adjudicating all the claims and all the
parties' rights and liabilities." This portion of
Rule 54(b) applies to the Stipulated Judgment which addresses
only Plaintiffs claims against Chase. As such, the Stipulated
Judgment is not a final judgment "from which an appeal
lies" and the separate document requirement under Rule
58 does not apply. See Schulz v. United States, 2017
WL 3475506, at *2 (N.D.N.Y.) (finding no need to enter
separate judgment on non-final order). The Court, thus,
construes the Motion to Vacate Stipulated Judgment as a Rule
54(b) "interlocutory motion invoking the district
court's general discretionary authority to review and
revise interlocutory rulings prior to entry of final
judgment." Wagoner v. Wagoner, 938 F.2d 1120,
1122 n. 1 (10th Cir.1991).
analyzing a Rule 54(b) motion to reconsider an interlocutory
order, courts look to Fed. R Civ. P. 59(e) for guidance.
Ankeney v. Zavaras, 524 Fed.Appx. 454, 458 (10th
Cir. 2013) (stating that in considering Rule 54(b) motion to
reconsider, "court may look to the standard used to
review a motion made pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 59(e)"). A Rule 59(e) movant carries the
burden of demonstrating that the Court should alter or amend
a judgment. See, e.g., Winchester v. Wilkinson, 2015
WL 2412175, at *2 (E.D. Okla.) (deciding that "court
finds petitioner has failed to meet his burden for relief
under Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e)"). Rule 59(e) relief is
appropriate if there is new controlling law, new evidence not
available previously, or a "need to correct clear error
or prevent manifest injustice." Ankeney, 524
Fed.Appx. at 458 (quoting Servants of the Paraclete v.
Does, 204 F.3d 1005, 1012 (10th Cir. 2000)).
Tenth Circuit has defined clear error as "an arbitrary,
capricious, whimsical, or manifestly unreasonable
judgment." Wright ex rel. Trust Co. of Kan. v.
Abbott Labs., Inc., 259 F.3d 1226, 1236 (10th Cir.
2001). Although the Tenth Circuit has not specifically
defined manifest injustice in the Rule 59(e) context, other
courts have defined manifest injustice as "more than
just a clear and certain prejudice to the moving party, but
also a result that is fundamentally unfair in light of
governing law." Smith v. Lynch, 2015 WL
4324167, *3 (D.D.C.). See also In re Green Goblin,
Inc., 2012 WL 1971143, *1 (Bankr. E.D. Pa. May 31, 2012)
("In order for a court to reconsider a decision due to
'manifest injustice,' the record presented must be so
patently unfair and tainted that the error is manifestly
clear to all who view it.") (quoting In re
Roemmele, 466 B.R. 706 (Bankr. E.D. Pa. 2012)).
does not suggest that there is new controlling law or new
evidence not available previously to support her Motion to
Vacate Stipulated Judgment. The Court construes
Wellington's arguments as asserting that the Court must
vacate or amend the Stipulated Judgment "to correct
clear error or prevent manifest injustice." In
addressing whether the Court clearly erred or caused manifest
injustice by entering the Stipulated Judgment, the Court
bears in mind that it "is vested with broad discretion
in deciding whether to enforce [the] parties['
stipulation or not." Miller v. Eby Realty Grp.
LLC, 396 F.3d 1105, 1116 (10th Cir. 2005).
argues first that Plaintiff and Chase cannot stipulate to the
Court's subject matter jurisdiction. See United
States v. Tittjung, 235 F.3d 330, 335 (7th Cir. 2000)
(acknowledging that "neither the parties nor their
lawyers may stipulate to jurisdiction or waive arguments that
the court lacks jurisdiction"); Frankv. U.S. W.,
Inc., 3 F.3d 1357, 1365 (10th Cir. 1993) (finding
"motion contained an improper stipulation to diversity
jurisdiction"). The Stipulated Judgment, however, does
not state that Plaintiff and Chase stipulate to jurisdiction.
The Stipulated Judgment states that the Court
"FINDS" it has jurisdiction over the case after
"having read and reviewed the file and being otherwise
fully advised on the premises...." (Doc. 100) at 1.
Furthermore, the Court recently determined that it indeed has
diversity subject matter jurisdiction over this case. (Doc.
165). Wellington's concern about a stipulation to subject
matter jurisdiction, therefore, is unfounded.
Wellington argues that Plaintiff and Chase cannot stipulate
to "dispositive legal questions such as plaintiffs
standing, the existence of a lien claim, and entitlement to
relief." (Doc. 147) at 4 (citing Holman v. United
States,505 F.3d 1060, 1070 (10th Cir. 2007) (holding
that parties cannot stipulate to ultimate legal question
affecting another party's legal rights). Notably, these
stipulations only pertain to Plaintiffs claims against Chase.
These stipulations are not "dispositive" of the
ultimate legal question concerning Wellington: whether
Wellington defaulted on the Note at issue. Wellington does
not explain how the Stipulated Judgment affects Plaintiffs
claim that she defaulted on the Note. Moreover, the Court has
already ruled, as a matter of law, that Wellington does not
have standing to challenge the assignments of the Note or
Mortgage, such as the alleged erroneous assignment of the
Mortgage to Chase. (Doc. 72) at 15-16; (Doc. 1-1) at ¶
13. Finally, Wellington does not provide any factual or legal
support indicating that Plaintiffs lien claim does not, in
fact, exist, or that Plaintiff is not entitled to relief with
respect to Chase. Cf. Derrick v. Standard Nutrition
Co., 2019 WL 2717150, at * 1 (D.N.M.) (noting that in
deciding motion to reconsider interlocutory order court can
consider direct evidence produced by party). See
also D.N.M. LR-Civ. 7.3 (movant "must cite